Study finds upper secondary school leaves pupils unprepared for later life
A recent evaluation commissioned by the Ministry of Education has found that Finnish upper secondary school, or Lukio, leaves pupils poorly prepared for what they will encounter in higher education and a future career. The study severely criticises what is seen as inadequate guidance counselling, which does not help pupils choose the right elective subjects.
The curriculum at the upper secondary school level is seen as being too splintered, preventing the formation of a coherent overall image of studies.
“The large number of courses causes problems in making choices, and the pupils do not get support for that purpose. In addition to guidance counsellors, different subject teachers should be allowed to say what the choices mean for further studies and for life in general”, says Professor Jarkko Hautamäki, the head of the evaluation group.
“Guidance counselling was available to those who wanted it, but it was not pushed”, says Pinja Fernström, an 18-year-old pupil from Helsinki who is in her final year of upper secondary school.
To prepare for her upcoming matriculation examinations, Fernström is studying mathematics intensively in the reading room of the library at Helsinki’s main post office.
She and Kalle Jokela, who is attending the same school, the Sibelius High School, spoke to Helsingin Sanomat during a break in their reading. Jokela says that their school has offered little in the way of preparation for higher education.
The evaluation commissioned by the Ministry of Education concluded that upper secondary school should promote the learning of general skills that are not measured in matriculation exams. These include data technology, self-guidance, and work skills, such as polite behaviour and keeping to schedules.
On the positive side, those who have completed upper secondary school in Finland nowadays are more self-confident than before, and are capable of working in groups and performing - even in English, if necessary.
Fernström and Jokela feel that it is important to be active and to take the initiative in upper secondary school, and that pupils are actually encouraged to do so.
The fresh evaluation finds that there is room for improvement especially in mathematics, Finnish, and Swedish.
In addition to students, the researchers behind the study also asked the opinions of personnel at institutions of higher education.
Head teacher Marja-Liisa Tenhunen, who represented universities of applied sciences in the study, pointed out that institutions of higher education have to make efforts to improve the mathematics skills of students who are freshly out of upper secondary school.
Pinja Fernström says that in her school, with its focus on music, there was such a broad range of courses on offer that she had to pick only those which were important for her future.
“I chose the extended course in mathematics because it opens up possibilities to many directions”, she says.